WASHINGTON, D.C. (PRWEB) June 29, 2017
As families and friends across America make plans to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday with barbecues and beach outings, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Tom Udall and Congresswoman Nita Lowey want to remind everyone that drunk driving is still the biggest killer on our roadways.
“If your plans include alcohol, designate a non-drinking driver to make sure celebrations don’t end in tragedy,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church, whose 18-year-old son Dustin was killed in an underage drunk and drugged driving crash. “We know the summer months put more people on the road, and we want everyone to stay safe this summer.”
In 2015, 146 people were killed in drunk driving crashes over the July 4 holiday (6pm 07/02/2015-5:59am 07/06/2015), representing 36 percent of all traffic fatalities during that period. Many people will start their long weekend on Friday, stretching the holiday over five days and putting more travelers on the road.
“As we head into the Fourth of July weekend, it is important to remember that impaired driving is a preventable crime. I look forward to continuing my work with MADD to eliminate drunk and drugged driving and save lives,” Senator Capito said.
Senator Udall reminds that there is still much to do to eliminate drunk driving.
“As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, let’s come together to make this country safer and stronger — by recommitting to ending drunk driving once and for all,” Udall said. “I’ve proudly championed tough measures, alongside MADD, to end drunk driving as New Mexico’s attorney general and in Congress. But our fight is far from over, and we must strengthen our resolve to eliminate these completely preventable tragedies, over the holidays and every day.”
“We need to put the brakes on the two-year trend in traffic death increases,” Congresswoman Lowey said.
Every year, about 10,000 people die as the result of drunk driving and 290,000 are injured. The number of deaths caused by drunk driving increased for the first time in 50 years in 2015, and is expected to rise again when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases the 2016 traffic fatalities later this year.
Because of the increase in these 100 percent preventable tragedies, MADD is redoubling our efforts to eliminate drunk driving as part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. We are expanding our efforts to support law enforcement and promote new automotive technologies that will save lives and end drunk driving.
Support Law Enforcement
Starting this summer, volunteers will step up their presence with law enforcement at sobriety checkpoints with increased support for the work officers do to eliminate drunk driving.
“Law enforcement is under tremendous pressure,” said Sheehey-Church. “Arrests are down across the board at a critical time. Law enforcement is the first line of defense in getting drunk drivers off the road. We are talking with top law enforcement officials across the country to better determine their needs so that we can better assist police in supporting sobriety checkpoints, law enforcement budgets and officer safety issues.”
Advocate for Advanced Vehicle Technology
On June 14, Sheehey-Church testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in support of autonomous vehicle technology as another way to combat drunk driving. During the testimony, MADD shared its vision for this technology. MADD supports the development of future automotive technologies that could eventually eliminate drunk driving, including Autonomous Vehicles.
“Last fall I was pleased to join Secretary Anthony Foxx as the Department of Transportation announced industry guidelines for Autonomous Vehicles, and it was my honor to speak to Senators earlier this month about what this technology means to MADD,” said Sheehey-Church. “We represent the millions of victims of drunk driving and we will be their voice as the nation moves forward with this exciting new technology. As key stakeholders, we look forward to working with lawmakers at both the state and federal level to make sure that autonomous technologies are safe and are available as soon as possible.”
In addition to autonomous vehicles, MADD has helped lead the effort to fund and support the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS), a passive alcohol detection system that is now being tested and will be installed in new cars in the near future. MADD looks forward to working with the new Administration to make continued DADSS development a priority.
This past fall, the Commonwealth of Virginia committed $20 million to the DADSS program. The commitment followed the 2015 global unveiling of the DADSS concept vehicle at a collaborative event sponsored by MADD, the auto industry, and the Department of Transportation held at DOT headquarters in Washington. Thanks to Virginia, there is now more than $70 million in total funding for the project.
It is critical to expedite DADSS technology in order to eliminate drunk driving and stop preventable deaths. MADD hopes the next steps involve a pilot program to move the DADSS technology out of the lab and onto the streets where it can stop drunk drivers.
“In partnership with MADD, we passed landmark legislation like the national .08 BAC standard and are supporting the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety to stop impaired driving,” Congresswoman Lowey said. “Technology like DADSS will stop cars from operating while the driver's BAC is above the legal limit. Programs like DADSS and MADD’s Campaign can make a difference now and in the future to save lives and keep our roads safe.”
10 Years of Campaign Progress
These initiatives build off 10 years of work to eliminate drunk driving. MADD’s Campaign is a comprehensive plan to address each of these areas that represent the majority of traffic deaths in the U.S. by supporting high visibility law enforcement, advocating for ignition interlocks for all offenders, development of advanced vehicle technology, and public support for all of these initiatives, as well as always designating a sober driver and wearing a seatbelt. We know these countermeasures are the best defense against impaired driving.
Since the Campaign began in 2006, 30 states have passed all-offender ignition interlock laws, which are proven to reduce drunk driving. This is an increase from one, New Mexico, when the campaign began. In addition, MADD has secured federal funding for DADSS, the passive, in-vehicle technology that will prevent an impaired driver from starting his or her vehicle.
Sheehey-Church said the increase in drunk driving deaths after a gradual decline in the 2000s must be a wakeup call. “While we have been successful in reducing drunk driving over the past 10 years, 10,000 deaths each year is unacceptable,” said Sheehey-Church. “This must be a call to action for the nation to focus on proven countermeasures.”
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 350,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit http://www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.